Obama to abolish torture practices

January 22, 2009 11:52:00 PM PST
President Barack Obama ordered the Guantanamo Bay detention center closed in the next year. He banned the torture of terror suspects, including the use of techniques such as waterboarding and he ordered the closure of a number of secret CIA prisons overseas.

In his sharpest break yet with his predecessor, President Obama began the job of abolishing the signature anti-terror practices of the Bush administration.

The terrorist prisoner camp at Guantanamo Bay will close within a year, and the U.S. will stop treating prisoners in ways that led to allegations of torture.

Both orders were signed on Thursday by President obama.

"We are not, as I said in the inauguration, going to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals," said President Obama.

Those who agree with the president, call it an important and defining moment for the new commander-in- chief.

"It's very significant, this has signaled the end of Guantanamo. Period," said UC Berkeley law Professor Laurel Fletcher.

Professor Fletcher is co-author of a recently released report on the Guantanamo detention center that documented extreme treatment of some prisoners at Guantanamo.

On Thursday, the president ordered all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army field manual which prohibits threats coercion and physical abuse including water boarding.

He also ordered the CIA to shut down any secret detention centers.

Berkeley geographer Trevor Paglen is co-author of "Torture Taxi," an accounting of how the CIA shuttled terror suspect's secret interrogation prisons around the world.

"Hopefully this is a step towards restoring a kind of rule of law around how the war on terror is going to be prosecuted," said Paglen.

That is how President Obama sees it.

"We intend to win this fight. We're going to win it on our terms," said President Obama.

But Republican Minority leader John Boehner is expressing concerns.

"I'm concerned that some will be let go too soon could end up back on the battlefield," said Boehner.

The president has halted any releases and any war crimes trials so the cases can be reviewed.

He also prohibited reliance on any Department of Justice, or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued anytime between the September 11th terrorist attacks and the last day of the Bush presidency.

Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo was the author of legal opinions supporting the Bush administration's interrogation policies.

ABC7 News reached him by phone today and asked him to comment but he declined. He's spending this semester in Orange County, as a visiting professor at Chapman College.